Rookie Austin Cook closed out the PGA Tour’s fall series with his first career victory at the RSM Classic in mid-November, but the focus has already shifted to the Hero World Challenge as 18 of the world’s best players head to the Bahamas this week for the exclusive event hosted by Tiger Woods, who owns the spotlight in his return from back surgery. We’ll take a look at several trends on the PGA Tour and Euro Tour as well following the recent conclusion of their Race to Dubai.
After falling to 15th in the Official World Golf Ranking following a missed cut at the PGA Championship, Rose has soared back up to No. 6 thanks to back-to-back wins at the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open during his recent stretch of eight consecutive top-10s. Rose’s Achilles’ heel is usually the putter, but he finished sixth among the field in terms of putts per GIR at last week’s UBS Hong Kong Open and heads into the Hero World Challenge in terrific form.
Fleetwood extended his streak of top-25s to seven at last week’s UBS Hong Kong Open, where he led the field in greens in regulation. A T21 at the DP World Tour Championship just one week prior was good enough for the Englishman to remain in the No. 1 spot of the Race to Dubai standings at the end of the European Tour’s 2016-17 season, as he ultimately hoisted the Harry Vardon Trophy for the first time in his career. Fleetwood also got out to a hot start at this week’s Hero World Challenge, leading the 18-entrant tournament by one stroke at six-under after Thursday’s first round in the Bahamas.
Suri, who entered the 2017 calendar year at just 1,137 in the OWGR, has ascended to No. 62 thanks in large part to wins at the European Tour’s Made in Denmark and Challenge Tour’s D+D REAL Czech Challenge. He’s also posted four top-eight results in his last five starts and finished just one stroke short of forcing a playoff at the UBS Hong Kong Open. Suri could be in line to make plenty of noise during his second season with status on the European Tour.
Up to a career-high 29th in the OWGR, the 23-year-old Englishman has finished no worse than tied for 19th in nine straight starts dating back to his win at the Omega European Masters. Fitzpatrick also ended up at 12th in the final Race to Dubai standings of the Euro Tour’s 2017 season, one position ahead of Rory McIlroy. He ranked 11th among his peers in terms of scoring average, 22nd in driving accuracy and 31st in GIR percentage.
Hughes was looking to bounce back from a pair of missed cuts heading into his most recent start at the RSM Classic -- an event he won in 2016 -- but instead missed his third cut in a row and continues to slide in the OWGR throughout the early portion of the PGA Tour’s 2017-18 campaign. He was saved by the putter at times throughout the 2016-17 season, while finishing just 146th in SG: Tee-to-Green.
Winless since 2012, Watney has collapsed to No. 391 in the OWGR and missed the cut in five of his last six starts. He also owns just one top-25 result in his past 17 events and finished 150th or worse in both birdie average and driving accuracy during the 2016-17 season.
In his return from a fourth back surgery, Woods exceeded most expectations with a three-under 69 on Thursday at the Hero World Challenge as he currently resides at T8 and just three shots out of the lead. Tiger’s first round back included an impressive showcase of power and confidence in his swing, though he also struggled with his short game at times due to a combination of rust and tricky greenside lies. Woods is on pace to return to at worst a serviceable level of fantasy value if he’s able to remain healthy heading into the 2018 calendar year.
Stenson recently finished outside of the top-10 in the European Tour’s 2016-17 Race to Dubai standings due in part to a rib injury that kept him out for the season’s final two events. He returned from the injury at this week’s Hero World Challenge, where he fired a two-under 70 during Thursday’s first round. He played his final six holes of the day in a combined four-under-par thanks to an eagle on the par-five 15th, so he’ll head into Friday’s second round with a bit of momentum.